Gauntlet: Slayer Edition Review

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“It’s here,” I told the misses as 1.5 gigabytes pushed their way through my network, applying a hefty patch against one of the most accessible titles ever released. Gauntlet has already occupied my time for almost an entire year because of its easy to join couch co-op. The first edition was a fun game that’s enjoyable for both hardcore gamers and more social/casual types. After a month of play however, the original version could become a grinding task, the levels repetitive and requiring a hefty commitment of hours.

All of that is gone. The core gameplay remains, focusing on smashing hordes of foes, taking out summoning stones, grabbing gold and not shooting (or do I?) the food. But everything else has expanded and grown, matured in depth and complexity. Even the opening menu wows with a great image of the dungeon’s entrance and a powerful musical theme reminiscent of both Gauntlet Seven Sorrow and the talents of Basil Poledouris, best remembered for the bombastic, adrenaline-inducing scores of Conan the Barbarian.

As the misses and I descended into the first dungeon, it didn’t take long for us to notice huge differences visually. The camera gently zooms in and out to adjust to the overall size of the room or tunnel. A layer of shade has been dry washed over everything; The stages are considerably more detailed, packed with new background elements like weapon racks and decorations, ruined red carpets and drapes and tons of fresh props. The caverns now sport moss and lichens, adding splashes of color. Each of the three major areas sported unique breakable gold pots and explosives, reducing repetition and making each stage memorable in its own right.

Not all of it is static either. Passing a familiar corner between two trip-spike traps, we came across a large mummy bursting from a coffin. In the second stage, we suddenly noticed a ripple effect as we battled our way across flooded floors. The level designers loved dropping little acts of dramatic tension, such as momentarily trapping us when we encounter the first enemy necromancer until a pair of summoning stones spawn as well. All-too-familiar paths have been changed and altered with better use of traps to test one’s dexterity.

gauntlet2The heroes we know and love now sport new tricks and configurations. Chiefly, weapons are no longer just cosmetic rewards. New special abilities are dependent upon them, and allow for innovative strategies and playstyles. Each character, including the DLC-addition Lilith, gets four options.

For example, the Warrior Thor can swap out his familiar cyclone attack for a thrown slash. It’s not as far reaching as his original move and doesn’t grant invincibility, but the assault is insanely powerful, downing large mummies or cutting the health of summoning stones in twain with a single blow. As if this wasn’t enough, one of his available axes transforms his over-the-head chop into a spammable ranged axe-throw! Thyra can forgo her shield-toss for a stunning-then-slaying spin, and Questor can use abilities to root foes in place or fade into the shadows. Grouchy Merlin now gets three new schools of magic, each can replace one of his existing elemental spell sets while Lilith can summon new varieties of undead such as archers or explosive ghosts.

These changes have steepened the learning curve, which is even more vertical thanks to unique potion abilities, three apiece per character. I laughed aloud when I decided to try one, and Thor lobbed a potion at the enemy like a grenade. His other potion abilities allow him to transform one monster into food, while the last lets him becomes twice his size and invincible for a short while. Merlin can consume a vial to cast Polymorph on a several monsters, transforming them into random items. And one of Questor’s abilities pacifies foes and heals allies, just as the Siren’s Lute used to do.

Just about every enemy has been changed. Skeletal archers have been swapped for Skeleton Commanders, who can make their soldiers invincible and launch freezing arrows. Orc Juggernauts now go berserk after losing half their life, and become charging brawlers with shocking agility. Skeleton Warriors are now Defenders, who can have their shields broken but become faster when it happens. For veterans, almost everything we know is now wrong.

gauntlet3Relics are still present, but their powers are reduced and they now operate on a cool down instead of consuming potions. This also expands possibilities, even during boss fights which wasn’t possible before. Most remain similar to the version past but some have been tweaked for balance, such as the Golden Feather and the Siren’s Lute, preventing abuse.

There have been a few other interesting changes. Skull tokens are now regular items which can be found as well as earned, granting extra lives. And masteries no longer provide the bonuses they used too. This figures, given that the monster slaying masteries once granted 10, 20 and 30% damage increase upon completion, and then were dropped to a meager 1, 2 and 3%. To be fair, Gauntlet never really was an RPG to begin with, so this change puts player success squarely on their skills, with no promises of improvement or “grinding to succeed.”

A few final touches to mention. Players who complained about the slow rate of the Colosseum’s turn over have been heeded; The Colosseum mode now changes daily rather than quarterly. Arrowhead has also cooked up the Endless Mode, where parties can descend deeper and deeper into increasingly challenging situations, such as having Death chase the player through cavern tunnels and even through the fire pits. Will they combine these challenges, adding fireballs, death and darkness? We haven’t made it that far, so who knows?

But one way or the other, PlayStation 4 players are in for a treat, and PC gamers can witness a good game become the Gauntlet we deserve. Check it out today.

Correction: The Wizard’s Polymorph works on more than one foe, not a single one as previously reported. This has been corrected in the body of the text.

Ant-Man Review

antmanThis review is a critical analysis of the movie, and as such there are spoilers. 

There’s a part of me that secretly worries Ant-Man may just be the outlier, the black sheep of Marvel Studios. Originally to be directed by comic genius Edgar Wright, that duty passed to Peyton Reed, who did an exceptional job of bringing our tiny hero to the screen. Wright’s departure was earmarked as being one of “creative differences.” One reasonable explanation was that Wright began his work on Ant-Man in 2006, when Marvel (as a cinematic studio) was still young. During the course of the script’s development, the studio was acquired by Disney, which changed their direction considerably. As a result, the introduction of the greater Marvel universe was a factor in Wright’s decision to leave.

In that sense, Ant-Man is a marvel in and of itself. It’s rare that multiple visions blend and arrive at something cohesive, as the recent Fantastic Four movie has so reminded audiences. The original script may still bear resemblance to Wright’s work, but it has been altered by both Adam McKay and star Paul Rudd with input from Marvel. Reed as director also must have added his own touches.

From start to end, Ant-Man does an exceptional job of shaking up the usual tropes that have come to dominate comic book derived films. Sam Raimi is probably the most thought of director for establishing these conventions in his overall impressive Spider-Man trilogy (I leave your opinion of Spider-Man 3 to you, dear audience.) I like to believe that Wright respected this and worked with the original source material to avoid these cliches.

Rather than a young man still wrestling with his budding sense of morality, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a former thief recently paroled for a righteous heist against his former company. Despite his good intentions a crime is still a crime, and Lang is divorced and kept at arm’s length from his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) until he can at least provide child support payments, a challenge given his background. The usual moral convictions many super heroes earn from mistakes are set aside for a more understandable desire to be connected with family.

antzMeanwhile, former Ant-Man Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) returns to the company from which his daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and former protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) expelled him. There Pym witnesses the unveiling of the Yellow Jacket, a suit that uses a modified version of his size altering particles to shrink and grow.

Realizing what Cross is about to unleash on the world, Pym takes the steps to recruit Lang and pass on the mantle. This flies against the wishes of his grudge-bearing daughter, who now spies against Cross and sees herself using the suit to stop the Yellowjacket.

Ant-Man has a number of themes worth mentioning. Broken families are a constant for both the main characters. One tries to mend the damage caused by his absence, the other is trying to prevent it. Rather than some unrealistic sense of healing the fractured relationships perfectly, there is more an acceptance of the imperfections and general good will to try and become better men. Although it takes a dramatic act on the parts of the characters to prove they truly mean it.

Hope_Van_DyneThere’s also an insinuation that corporations were inherently malevolent; while Iron Man was more inclined to take the view that companies represent the views of their owners, every corporation in Ant-Man is at worst morally corrupt and at best unkind. VistaCorp, Stark Industries and the current Pym Technologies are varying degrees of villains.

Even Baskin Robbins (of all businesses) gets teased, as they eventually learn of Lang’s criminal past and terminate his employment with them. Given the swiftly established likability of Rudd’s character, this casts the ice-cream giant in a negative light for being unwilling to give our hero a second chance.

But the hints of redemption are the best elements of all. More on that in a moment.

Michael Douglas is far more than good as Hank Pym. He crafts a brilliant and angry character, portraying Pym’s ardor in several degrees that never grow dull. From a provoked violent streak to calmly delivered sarcasm and frustrations with his daughter, the trio of van Dyne, Cross and Pym make for a satisfying though partial story. Cross, I feel, wasn’t the under developed villain many critics think he was. Rather I believe Reed wisely veered away from revealing too much of Cross’ motivations for fear of indirectly illuminating Hank Pym’s secrets too early. The two men’s histories are, after all, greatly entwined.

Redemption requires regret, and that’s a line that Marvel seems to tread with care. In the original comics, Hank Pym has a history of domestic violence towards his wife Janet van Dyne. A single act during the 80s is perceived as accidental, but the more recent Ultimates series portrayed Pym as mentally unstable, and left no doubt that abuse was on-going.

hank pymThe movie seems to insinuate, based on Cross’ increasingly erratic behavior, that this is a side-effect of prolonged exposure to the Pym particle. It is possible that Pym’s secrets were simply remorse for the fate of Janet, but it could also imply that the MCU Pym may have mistreated his wife as well. This issue is not something to be casually tossed into the script without prudence and remorse, something Ant-Man didn’t have time to approach.

Likewise, Rudd’s Scott Lang has a similar need for a second chance. But while people can be on the fence about Pym, Lang is instantly likable, not really flawed but rather carrying the burden of his mistake. Even the Baskin Robbins’ manager was sympathetic as to the reason for his criminal history despite still having to fire him. You see Lang trying against the odds to be there for his daughter when it actually matters and not years down the road after the heavy lifting has been complete. Lang is so cool, he even helps make sense of Pym’s concern for his daughter, articulating with emphatic brilliance why Pym was so reluctant to let his daughter be the Ant-(Wo)man, and helping to cement another path for her.

With regard to that future, I am rather excited for the possibility of Evangeline Lilly as the future Wasp in the MCU. Marvel has suffered from a lack of good super heroines due to Fox Studios possessing the rights to the X-Men, and Lilly is a great actress who portrays Hope van Dyne with an emotional depth surpassing Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow (Elizabeth Olsen hasn’t had much time to fully mature into her role as the Scarlet Witch yet.) It has also been suggested that Janet van Dyne may someday return, as Scott Lang figured his way out of sub-atomic space. But if Lang could, then what of Darren Cross?

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Ant-Man is easily one of Marvel’s best movies. It’s fun, it’s funny, and although it hints at the Avengers it never really needs them. It values wit, smarts and charm over power, and these factors put it more on par with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. One would never believe that someone could take a hero named Ant-Man seriously, but not only does it succeed, it does so over the sound of laughter.

Battletech KickStarter

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During my teenage years I was a considerable fan of the Battletech universe. To this day, I still have several books including technical readouts and novels by Michael A. Stackpole, William H. Keith Jr and Robert Thurston, as well as a small collection of the tabletop miniatures. If I dig, I might even find several hard copies of the MechWarrior game series.

So when I heard the news about Harebrained Schemes putting together a new KickStarter for a fresh Battletech title, I wanted to take some time to dissect the news. Truth be, this seems to be a situation where KickStarter is the absolute safest approach to gauging consumer interest. More on this in a moment.

For newcomers, Battletech is a war game that puts players on the 31st century battlefield, filled with walking tanks known as Battlemechs. The background goes that a star-settled humanity was united by the Star League, and held together by five Great Houses in the territory around Terra known as the “Inner Sphere.” When the ruling Star Lord (not Peter Quill) and his family were assassinated, the Star League army slew his usurper and disappeared into the unexplored Periphery territories. Left with their private armies, the five Great Houses each declared themselves the new Star Lord and sought to claim the Inner Sphere as their own.

techreadoutThis began a series of conflicts known as the Succession Wars. Several centuries later, the first couple of wars have knocked humanity down a peg or two and have truly desensitized our species to the violence.

Liberal use of nuclear weapons and heavy targeting of science and production centers has sent our technology backwards. As a result, several technology preserved agreements even as the battles and raids continue.

Eventually the Star League army returns, reformed as the Clans. A more technologically advanced and warrior-derived society, they move to seize control of the Inner Sphere. This results in a massive, fragile alliance between the Houses, the effects of which change the political landscape forever.

In the games, players join a side and engage in a variety of machines such as assassinations, protecting or invading territory, scouting or escaping. Depending on the nature of the title, players can pilot the machines themselves simulator style, command lances or companies and/or order them about much like a real time strategy game with very limited resources. The titles with the “mercenaries” suffix also feature a great deal of economic management, giving incentive to avoid damage and minimize ammunition expenditures to keep the C-bill revenues in the black.

Originally created and owned by FASA Corporation, Battletech has faced hardships from its very conception. The earliest fourteen designs were heavily based off of several anime series, and the legal rights came under challenge from Harmony Gold. These now “unseen” designs are gone, but in their place are hundreds of new, original mech designs.

The problems didn’t end there though. FASA Corporation closed its doors in 2001, and the rights to various projects shuffled about for sometime. The franchise was acquired by WizKids, and then by Topps only three years later. The video games have gone through several publishers, including MicroProse and Microsoft. Recently two new games were released, the free-to-play MechWarrior Online from Piranha Games and MechWarrior Tactics whose publisher has filed for bankruptcy.

successionwarsFor better or worse, Battletech separates itself from many similar board top properties with its detailed history, that has been expanded upon for more than two decades. This on-going history can be an impressive barrier-to-entry for potential new fans. While Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 thrive in a universe of ignorance, doubt, deniability and massiveness, no historic event happens in Battletech that isn’t somehow recorded and important.

Clans and factions too have been and will be destroyed, such as the enigmatic Clan Wolverine who may have become the Minnesota Tribe, and Clan Smoke Jaguar who was the victim of the massive The Twilight of the Clans book series. Major political figures have been born, raised and die, though the reasons range from battles and assassinations to old fashioned age and cancer. 

My faith in the series has long died away since my favorite authors have moved on and the ever changing hands weakened the brand. But if there’s anyone out there who can get it right, it’s going to be series creator Jordon Weisman. After his company’s incredible work with the Shadowrun franchise, his name alone justifies tossing a few dollars into the hat.

Look for the Battletech Kickstarter this fall.

True Four, Also Known As Fantastic Detective

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No spoilers today.

Recent events make it appear that everyone’s been having a rough time both on the screen and off.

This season of True Detective ended last night. One way or the other, people are discussing the finale. Nic Pizzolatto’s craziest accomplishment is how much he made finding a consensus difficult.

I don’t think I’ve ever been audience to a television series which has been quite this divisive without someone finding it offensive. It has everyone thinking and feeling. All the pieces of a phenomenal story are present, but were they used to peak effect? An element one must accept about True Detective is how the villains can win. There’s rarely absolute justice. Even the victories tend to let someone slip through the cracks, someone gets away into the dark. Perhaps that robs some shred of hope for which we secretly long. For me, personally, I greatly enjoyed this season because of the themes of corruption and the attempt to fight a system that resists by any means necessary.

But that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

True Detective will probably always face that difficult task of trying to improve, while at the same time refusing to heed the critics. It’s not that the naysayers are wrong, but trying to appease those judgmental of art often fail to win real respect.

But while True Detective walks that polarizing tightrope, Fantastic Four decidedly fell from its perch. The film has done so poorly with critics, it teeters back and forth between single and double digits on Rotten Tomatoes. I have yet to see it myself and given these reactions, I almost want to catch it for no other reason than to see what could elicit such a reaction. However, I’ll likely be waiting until it comes to the movie channels.

Director Josh Trank is said to have posted and then deleted a tweet putting the blame on Fox Studios. Such an event would fail to surprise. After all, there was supposedly a great deal of pressure on David Fincher when he directed Alien 3 that he nearly quit the industry entirely.

On the flip side, Fincher came back with a series of fantastic movies like Fight Club and Se7en which are some fan favorites and cult classics in their own right, as well as critical winners like The Social Network. Who knows? Given his work on the critically acclaimed Chronicle, maybe Trank is another Fincher who just hasn’t had the chance to mature a little.

Time will tell.

Déjà Vu

The title will probably make sense in a moment.

It has been an incredibly chill weekend for me. Television wise, I started finishing off the final episodes of this season’s Game of Thrones. But more awesomely, I completed the second season of Penny Dreadful. The series greatly improved over the first, being better rounded with its character development, stronger with its emotional impact and incredibly addictive story line, yet still setting and expanding the greater stage. I’m not going to go into too much detail right now simply because it deserves a full, in depth review later.

But Penny Dreadful isn’t alone in deserving discussion. I finally saw Ant-Man this Sunday. It was interesting hearing people’s various gripes regarding the movie, but I had a terrible amount of fun and couldn’t help but think it one of the Marvel’s best. If you’re a little tired of the superhero movie, or even if superhero movies aren’t normally your thing, Ant-Man is unusual and trope toppling as to be worth catching in theaters. This too will probably deserve a full review.

On the gaming front, I’ve been working through Final Fantasy VII for the PC. I’ve been taking my sweet time too, building great levels, earning my Limit Breaks and strengthening my materia early on. In the plot, I only just finished visiting Cosmo Canyon. I’m curious as to what changes will be made for the upcoming remake, so at least now my memory will be fresh.

Finally, writing.

Hate to say it, but I had my hopes up to submit to a “hunting” based submission call. The window of opportunity, being open in Australia, closed at 10:00 am EST. My story had more than 5,000 words down, but it just wasn’t ready yet and still required formatting. The story will be complete and submitted elsewhere. It’s not a total loss, just not what I hoped for.

On the plus side however, I did finish cementing some publishing deals and took care of some domains that I would be needing. For starters, I finally started my own website at www.jamesfadeley.com. As well as my own company, Thunderbird Studios.

At the moment, Thunderbird Studios is more of a tool than a company. An easier means of managing sales concerns and building a brand. My friends and I have a horde of ideas to put together, including a friendly, fan facing Wikipedia for an upcoming series. We plan to go full scale with certain ideas in the next year, but for the time being are content just to tinker and get our technological infrastructure down.

Five Things the Final Fantasy VII Remake Could Use

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Eighteen years have passed since the release of the original Final Fantasy VII, and a whole new generation of gamers are ready to explore this fantastic world for the first time. For the gaming industry, Square-Enix has effectively reached the status of Disney. They really don’t have to truly innovate anymore as they could probably get by through updating, remaking and re-releasing their golden age classics.

There are plenty of other wishlists for the upcoming Final Fantasy VII remake, but this article covers some content elements. Many of the other articles have been more obvious. New soundtracks! Better graphics! As though Square-Enix is expected to release a remake with MIDI music and character models that use a jaw dropping 17 polygons.

Rather, these recommendations are more about expanding the core gameplay. Questions regarding the combat system and faithfulness to the story have yet to be answered. So rather, these suggestions work against what has been established from the original game.

airshipFull Exploration of Midgar and the Ocean

Traveling the world and beyond is a common hallmark of the Final Fantasy series. Since game one, travel by land, sea and air were long established. The fourth game sent the main characters to the moon.

Yet after the release of Final Fantasy VII, it was heavily rumored that there were large swathes of the map left on the cutting room floor.

No one can really blame then Squaresoft for the decision. The game was fairly massive to begin with, so it really wasn’t a surprise to anyone that about five sectors of Midgar didn’t make the final product. Likewise, when AVALANCHE finally commandeers the ShinRa sub, they can only use it to explore the inner ocean between the three major continents. There’s a whole outer ocean just begging to be explored. And perhaps out there, a slight change to the story will allow us to…

Fight the Sapphire WEAPON

When Final Fantasy VII came to the United States, Squaresoft decided to add two new bosses the Japanese audiences didn’t receive until later. These were the powerful Emerald and Ruby WEAPONS, and defeating them is a brag-worthy achievement to this day.

Sapphire_Weapon_FMVBut among the original series of WEAPON bosses was one that the plot never allowed us to fight; the Sapphire WEAPON. It would require a slight alteration to events to permit this battle, but why not let players complete their trophy collection?

Say that the Sapphire WEAPON was injured instead of destroyed and forced to retreat, allowing Cloud and company to hunt him later. Perhaps that could lead to a fourth Limit Break for Cait Sith. Wait, Cait Sith has only two Limit Breaks? Well then…

A Full Set of Limit Breaks for Cait Sith

Cait Sith is best described as a divisive character, story wise. Some people liked him, some didn’t. But in terms of play-ability and use in combat, there’s definite room for improvement.

Every other character besides shape-shifting Vincent possessed a total of seven Limit Breaks, the powerful attacks each party member can execute after absorbing enough damage. Most characters divided these attacks into four levels. The first tier of any level was earned by having the party member slay 80 foes, while the second tier of a level was earned by using the first tier 10 times. The fourth level was unique and specially earned by discovery. This added incentive to swap characters to obtain all their abilities.

CaitSith-FFVIIArtBut Cait Sith was different. As the game’s resident gambler, he possessed only two Limit Breaks; a dice based attack he starts with and the random slots. Thus there just wasn’t much to earn with him once the second skill had been achieved.

Gambling and gaming wise, there are plenty of themes to choose from. Roulette boards, poker, darts and billiards, maybe some kind of Black Jack game where every hit results in “card” that hopefully adds up to 21 unless the player chooses to stay while a bust hurts him. There’s more fun to be had with Cait Sith!

Furthermore, one of the slot “attacks” actually resulted in an automatic game over. Maybe instead, how about a horde of status effects against the whole party? Automatically losing seems too harsh, especially if the player hasn’t saved recently.

Allow Swapping the Main Character During Travel

Above, incentive to swap characters was mentioned. While the importance of Cloud to the plot is understood, one wonders why he can’t sit out a bit more during the more mundane segments of the game. Why not let Barrett lead when the player is just leveling in the Junon area? Or let Aeris or Tifa catch the chocobo? When approaching a location that requires Cloud, they can just force him to join the party.

If Square-Enix even goes so far as to add quips and rib poking between their characters during combat, the reason to do this grows even larger, allowing for interesting relationship building and stronger dynamics.

More Time with “That Character”

In early 1997, the world’s most public spoiler involved a man armored in black telling a maimed fellow, “I am your father.”

The second most public spoiler involved the death of a certain character in Final Fantasy VII.  Amusingly, before the game was even released state-side, a rumor sprouted that the Japanese version would allow for (paraphrased) “the resurrection of a party member who dies,” while the United States version would not. This proved false, and the person leading the petition even apologized for the mistake.

Midgar

As mentioned before, a new generation of gamers has grown since the release of the original, so it’s worth trying to preserve the spoilers even after so long. But even in the first edition, the time the player had with this character was fairly short. Usually, the player achieves the departed’s ultimate weapon and Limit Break just before the events of their demise.

Attempting to undo the death of this character risks a great deal of the plot falling apart. So rather, it would seem fair to ask for a few events to slow down and strengthen an already strong emotional connection. It just seems a gentler way for veterans who are already used to the loss to better accept it.

I Am The Television

Note: I was just informed that there is a blog by the name of “The Televisionary.” I did not know this during my cheeky title creation, but out of respect, I have changed the name of this post.

My backlog of unfinished television continues to grow.

At the moment, I’m still half way through the latest seasons of both Game of Thrones and Penny Dreadful. I don’t think I’ve watched a single episode for almost two months now. The last seven episodes of Mad Men also goes untouched. I’m still waiting on Netflix releases for the sixth season of The League and the second season of The 100 although I really want to read the books too. I’m currently surfing through the fourth season of The Wire. And despite interest, I’ve yet to really go past the first season of Orphan Black.

AA_orphanblack_thumbnail_s2_02_webYou know, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned Orphan Black before. The barely science fiction show focuses on a bunch of clones who have grown up separately from one another, but discover each other and conspire to evade the organization that created them. Clones are one of those “forgotten” tropes of science fiction that the showrunners have picked up, dusted off and made fresh again.

Tatiana Maslany who plays main clone Sarah Manning and the rest of her “sisters” does an absolutely stellar job of wearing characters in a diverse manner. She never gets old, never slips and never fails to convince the audience that despite having the same face, these are all different people. It’s a remarkable performance from just one actress.

Nor am I inclined to get a break from the onslaught of watchable television anytime soon. Marvel’s Jessica Jones is due out sometime this year. And most exciting of all has to be the fact that Jon Bernthal has joined the cast of the second season of Daredevil as one of my favorite characters. Frank Castle, better known as the Punisher.

Three times, three times various studios have tried and failed to execute a movie starring the famed vigilante. Once in 1989 with Dolph Lundgren, again with some success in 2004 with Thomas Jane, and the last in 2008 with Ray Stevenson. Inexplicably, no one could seem to nail the formula down for one of the few major characters in Marvel’s franchise that doesn’t even have any superpowers. No powered armor, no gamma radiation transformations, no healing powers. Just a former marine with the connections, patience and iron will to walk the walk with the worst criminal elements of the underworld.

Untold_Tales_of_Punisher_MAX_Vol_1_4_TextlessPerhaps Castle’s biggest attraction is that while every other characters in Marvel’s line up covers the cheeky and fun, the light and morally sunny, the Punisher sticks to his grimdark corner. His unyielding, stark ethos and calm acceptance of killing constantly putting him at odds with almost every other character. It’s against Castle that every hero’s ethics are measured.

One thing that may have made Frank Castle so hard to portray on the screen is his age. His best representation was in Garth Ennis’ PunisherMAX prints, which stayed true to the source material and kept Castle as a Vietnam veteran. While other Marvel heroes have found ways to retool and restructure their origins from more recent conflicts, to do so with Frank would risk leaving some of his best and most inspired stories behind because of their connection to that desperate war.

Perhaps they’ll try having Nick Fury provide Castle with the Infinity Formula, which prolongs life and solves this issue. While PunisherMAX segregated Castle to his own backyard and away from the greater community, it did establish and maintain a working relationship between the two men. Even in Ennis’ work, there is a premise for the possibility.

To my knowledge, Ennis’ work has yet to be referenced in the current MCU. But when Ennis left the Punisher to work on a new series, Jason Aaron picked up the pen to write a continuation. The first of Aaron’s PunisherMAX collections crafted an origin story for the Kingpin, which seemed a strong inspiration for Vincent D’Onofrio’s character in Daredevil’s first season. If the PunisherMAX prints are influencing their work, Marvel undoubtedly faces the incredibly difficult choice of whether to tap Ennis’ amazing stories for Daredevil or save such tales for later, should the Punisher’s popularity finally prove enough to merit his own series.